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Letter from Arthur Dobbs to the Board of Trade of Great Britain
Dobbs, Arthur, 1689-1765
March 29, 1764
Volume 06, Pages 1025-1035

[B. P. R. O. North Carolina. B. T. Vol. 14. E. 79.]
Letter from Governor Dobbs to the Board.

Brunswick March 29th 1764

My Lords,

Having soon after my coming over wrote to your Lordships acquainting you in pursuance of my Instructions the then state of the Province, and what I thought might prove for his Majesty's service, and improvement of the Trade thereof,

I think it may be proper when the affairs of America are now to be taken into consideration to abridge what I then wrote, lest that

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letter might have been mislaid, and add something more to it upon account of the great acquisitions and additions to the British Empire on this Continent. viz.

By my 128th Instruction I am commanded to lay before your Lordships the wants and defects of the Province, the chief products, what new Improvements are made or may be made, by the industry of the Planters, or what advantages may be made by Trade, and which way His Majesty may contribute thereto.

What I have chiefly observed since I came, as to the wants and defects of this Province is first the want of a sufficient number of pious Clergymen to instil good principles and morals into the Inhabitants, and proper schools and masters to instruct their youth, the want of which occasions an indolence, idleness and want of attention either to their own good or that of the Province, which with the warmth of the climate and plenty of Cattle, fruit and grain with little labour, prevents their industry by which means the price of labour is very high, and labourers and artificers being scarce in comparison to the number of Planters, when employed they scarce work half as much in a day as they do in Europe, and their wages being from 3 shillings to 6 shillings a day for artificers the Planters are not able to build or make Improvements by clearing the ground, unless they are very industrious and frugal enough to save as much as to buy two or three negroes they are not able to cultivate their Land as your Lordships expect, consequently the clause of cultivation must be retarded, and only be held as a rod over them to prompt them to be industrious, otherwise young or new Planters will not venture to take up Lands, and those who are rich can't get hands to assist them until they can buy Slaves, and teach them handicraft Trades, but as the chief Planters are now sensible of those wants and difficulties, the Assembly seem determined to give a proper Encouragement to learned and pious Clergymen and to encourage Schools, but must recommend it as of great service to His Majesty, and a satisfaction to the Inhabitants if a Bishop was established or a Clergyman with Episcopal power to confirm the youth, to visit and keep the Clergy to their duty, and to concurr in removing the clergy if convicted by a jury of immorality, non residence or inattention to their cure, with a power of ordination, without the expence trouble or delay of going to London to be ordained and licenced by the Bishop of London, without their having a Judicial power by Spiritual Courts as in Britain, which only occasions divisions between the Clergy and Laity, and that the power of Excommunication

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for enormous immoralities should only extend to their being excluded from the Communion of the Christian Church, until by penance and contrition they should be restored by the Bishop, without any further Civil punishment fines or penalties, as have been inflicted by the Popish Church to raise the power of the Clergy, except what His Majesty might inflict by not admitting them into places of trust or profit; since the date of the foregoing paragraph the white inhabitants have greatly increased, the number of Counties and Parishes are now 29, and the white Taxables who are only males above 16, are above 24,000; consequently near 100,000 Souls, and above 100,0001 male and female Taxable Negroes, and for this number there are but six Orthodox Clergymen, four of which are pious, & perform their duty, the other two very indifferent & of suspicious morals, one having no cure, the other often changing his residence, the Law, now allows £100 per annum and £20 until a Glebe house can be built and a Glebe be purchased, and the Vestries have now a power granted to them to lay a Parish Tax of Ten shillings per Taxable to maintain an incumbent and parish schoolmaster, to erect Churches and Glebe houses and to purchase Glebes.

The second defect of this Province is the defenceless state of the Sea Coast, and the want of a sufficient depth of water for large Ships to carry away lumber and naval stores from the Northern parts of this Colony, the river of Cape Fear being the only river capable of receiving Ships of considerable burthen, having about twenty feet water on the bar and a strong tide to carry up Vessels a great way into the Country and smaller Vessels above one hundred and fifty Miles.

The northern rivers of Roanoak, Chowan, Pamlico, Neuse and Trent being very large but having little or no tides, being defended from the violence of the sea by a chain of sandy Islands with a sound within them which extend from Currituck near the Capes of Virginia, to old Topsail Inlet, and Southward by several Islands and Inlets, as far to the Southward as new Topsail and cabbage Inlet over against Brunswick on Cape Fear river in which inlets few are navigable for ships, Currituck having only six feet water at high water, Roanoak not above ten feet at the bar, and within it a few miles distance not above six feet, Hatteras closed up, and on the bar at Ocacock the only Entrance for Ships to the four great Northern Rivers, having only sixteen feet water to bring them into a safe harbour within, but having little or no tide within those small inlets,

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and great fishes coming down those great rivers, a swash of loose sand is formed within the Harbour, upon which is only 8 or 9 feet water, which often shifts so that no large Vessel can pass it until they discharge half their Cargos, and can only return half loaded, having the remainder sent down in lighters near 100 miles from their ports of discharge, during the late war for want of a Fort to defend the entrance and Channel, the Privateers seeing the masts of the Ships at anchor in the road within the Harbour, over the sandy Islands, they went in and cut out the Ships and carry'd them to sea.

New Topsail Inlet on Core sound is a very safe Harbour, with above 16 feet water on the Bar, but having no considerable river within, no considerable Trade can be carryed on from thence, and as there is a fine but small Harbour with a large safe road, taken notice of lately at Cape Lookout within four leagues eastward of it, which the French and Spaniards frequented last war which is about 40 miles to Southward of Ocacock, and to the Northward of Cape Fear, it seems absolutely necessary to erect a Fort there as well for a safety to our trading Vessels and small Cruizers, as to prevent privateers from wooding, watering and lying there in safety, as there is a sum of money appropriated to build Forts or Batteries at Portsmouth near Ocacock and old Topsail Inlet, and one already built at Cape Fear and the Colony is in debt, it is humbly hoped that His Majesty will establish an Independent Company in this Province of 100 men to garrison these Forts, and to assist the Revenue Officers in preventing an illicit Trade, and to protect if necessary the Surveyors to resurvey His Majesty's Lands when encroached upon, and to prevent Frauds in receipts of the Quit rents.

After this Representation the Lords of the Admiralty sent over orders to be ready for any Captains of Cruizers who should desire to be stationed at Cape Fear to make a Report of Cape Lookout Harbour and though about two years afterwards the Zephr Captain Greenwood was stationed at Cape Fear and received those orders, yet he delay'd and neglected to obey them under pretence of being ordered to the Northward, & afterwards to the West Indies, and when he departed left the Letters and orders for the next Ship stationed here, which were lately delivered to the Captains of the Viper and Hornet now stationed here, who promise to obey it, His late Majesty was graciously pleased to send a supply of canon and ordnance Stores for Fort Johnston at Cape Fear which is now effectually rebuilt, and enlarged with a wall of Tabby work, of Lime and Shells, with a lower battery and fosse, but as the Assembly will only

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allow an officer and Ten men to guard it, tho' supplied with thirty large Canons besides Swiviles, and a Magazine for powder, I think it absolutely necessary for His Majesty's Service, and the safety of this Province to prevent an illicit Trade, and to support the Government against a rising Spirit of Republican Independancy, that a Company of Regulars should be fixed at Fort Johnston on Cape Fear river, and another to the Northward at Ocacock and old Topsail Inlet at Port Beaufort, for the same purpose.

As to the chief Products of this Province, at my arrival they consisted of Pitch, Tar, Turpentine, and other Naval Stores, lumber of all Kinds Rice, Indian Corn, Beef, Pork, Hides raw and tanned, deer Skins and other Furs, myrtle & Beeswax, Cotton and some Indigo just entered upon. the Climate is proper for silk, white Mulberry Trees from the seed becomes Trees in three or four years, wines of all Kinds may be made higher up the Country among the Hills, where there are great variety of wild native Vines, which only want proper Vine dressers to improve them, or to plant European Vines, there are great Quantities of Iron Oar found above ground but none followed, or Iron works or Bloomaries undertaken, the Planters not having a Fund to enter upon it, Hemp and Flax grow surprisingly, and Flax seed has been exported by the way of Pensylvania to Ireland, which exceeds the best Pensylvania and New York Flax Seed, but for want of a direct Trade to Ireland from hence, being confined in our Exports to a very few Articles, prevents the raising of Flax and Hemp except for the consumption of the Colony, which for want of having proper returns to send to Britain and Ireland the back settlers are endeavouring to serve themselves with their own linnen, besides these several articles, Tobacco thrives here, and is of better kind, and yields more than in Virginia but as it may be overstocked, and prejudice the Trade of that Province no public Encouragement is given, except near the Virginia Line where about 2,000 Hogsheads are made, but chiefly exported from Virginia.

Since this acount was sent over there has been a considerable alteration in several of these Articles, Indigo has been found not to answer here, as there is no dependance but upon the first cutting, and has often suffered by drought and other accidents. The Exportation of Beef by the great death of Cattle, by the distemper conveyed here from South Carolina, by which near ⅞ths of their stock have been lost, and are but just beginning to recover, which has raised the price of Beef to four pen ce per pound and salt butter from

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12d to near two shillings per pound, and the chief part of our live Stock from Northward and Westward are drove by Land to Philadelphia, and the Pork to Virginia, partly occasioned from not having proper salt to cure them. However at Cape Fear instead of having had all our flower from the Northward, they have increased in sowing wheat and erecting bolting mills, that they have of late exported several hundred barrels of flour to the West Indies & have increased in their exports of Naval Stores to 36,647 Barrels per annum, and in lumber and scantling above 30,000,000 feet having erected about 40 Saw Mills on the Branches of Cape Fear River, and as the Assembly have now given a premium upon the Exportation of Hemp and Flax, our Hemp which used to be exported from South Carolina, will now be exported from Cape Fear.

I shall now beg leave to lay before your Lordships the great difficulty, this as most of the other Colonies on this Continent, labours under in relation to our Trade which in great measure prevents our Improvement, and I hope to shew it equally effects the Wealth & Trade of Britain. The prohibition of the importation of salt from any Port in Europe, except from Britain, to this and the Southern Provinces of this Continent South of Cape Henlopen and Delaware, is a considerable drawback upon our Trade, the English salt is not found so good, as the French, Spanish or Portugese salt in curing out Pork & Beef being too mild, and the Isle of May, Saltorage Turks Island, or St Martin's salt, is too corrosive eating away the Juices, but the bay & Portugal salt is a medium between them, and is found here the only proper salt to cure beef and Pork to the West India Islands.

And therefore the limitation of this Trade obliges the Southern Colonies to take their salt at great disadvantage from our Northern Colonies, at double freight, and a furthur advanced price to the Northern Importer, or to take all our salt from the Islands, so that no more salt is taken from England by this restriction.

But if the Trade was opened directly to Portugal and Spain for Salt, wine, oil and fruit, as we can have no wine now but from Madeira, or the Western Islands, upon which account those wines are risen to a great price in England, as well as in the Colonies, we should then open an immediate Trade with them for those Articles, and should carry directly to them all kinds of lumber, and naval stores, which I shall show would be of great advantage to Britain, as also Indian corn, Ships, bees, and myrtle wax, which they now take from other nations, and have some Bullion to return to Britain

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for the Choice Manufactures etc, which we must have from thence, when at present the Planters are Charged 100 [per cent extraordinary upon British goods, having no proper returns to make for them, which must necessarily oblige the Planters and back Settlers to go into Manufactures to the great loss of Britain.

We are also greatly cramped in our Trade to Ireland, having little or nothing here which we can export directly to Ireland, except a little Flax seed, for lumber, Timber or other deals will not answer, without an assortment of other goods or products from hence, so that Ships coming from Ireland must return empty, upon this account we are discouraged from raising Hemp and Flax, and yet what Flax seed has been sent via Pennsylvania for a sample has been found to Answer better than the seed from the Baltick or Northern Colonies. The Trade also from Ireland being limited to plain Linnens, (and provisions which we don't want) and to Sarvants and Irish Protestants, who choose to come and reside in this climate, the Ships in want of proper returns carry them all to Pennsylvania, from whence at great expence they come by land to the back part of this Province in Waggons, but their wealth being expended, they are incapable of improving or cultivating the Lands they take up for some time, which is a great loss to this Colony, the depriving, therefore these Southern Colonies of sending several of the enumerated Commodities directly to Ireland, being obliged to enter their Ships first in England and land, and then reship their goods, which increases the expence so much without benefit to England, that very little of the produce from hence can be sold in Ireland, and as to rice it seems very surprising that it should be allowed to be exported to all Countries, south of Cape Finisterre, and not to Ireland, at least for their Consumption, which occasions very little to be consumed in Ireland, if it was only intended that it should not be re-exported to Hamburgh or the Baltick, that might be prevented by allowing no draw back, is it not also a great detriment to the Irish, as well as to the Colonies, that neither checks, striped or stamped linnens should be allowed to be exported directly to the Colonies which increases the price, and prevents their sending more returns or Cash to Britain. Is it not equally surprising that all kinds of Naval Stores is prohibited to be sent directly to Ireland, even without a premium, since it occasions all Naval Stores to be imported into Ireland from Norway, and the Baltick & are paid for in ready money, which also raises the price of Naval Stores, Lumber and Deals, imported from the North into Britain, and these would be remitted from Ireland to England

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either by Bills, or cash to purchase the Manufactures, and other Articles wanted in the Colonies, when at present not a Ton of these can be sent to Ireland, without being first landed in Britain, without forfeiting Ship and Cargoe, and for this reason no Ships can go to Ireland with Staves or Lumber because they can't carry an assortment of other heavy goods. It is also the same with Indigo, which Ireland is obliged now to take from the French with ready money. If these difficulties were removed we should then have an immediate Trade with Ireland for our lumber and Naval Stores, and procure linnens in return at the lowest price, and could make larger remittances to England for their Manufactures, which would entirely prevent these Colonies from making linnens or entering into other manufactures, but only providing premiums of manufactures to be exported to Britain and Ireland.

Since the writing and sending over these several observations to your Lordships, the vast increase of the British Empire on this Continent must add great weight to the foregoing observations and as—from our increasing numbers, & having the whole Trade of this Continent, East of the Mississippi in our own hands, and that both our own Islands, and also the foreign Islands must take all their Lumber, and most part of their Provisions, and Naval Stores from us, and as Britain is not only become the greatest Naval power but also the principal Trading Empire on this globe—it is of the greatest importance to have all the Laws relative to commerce revised and made more advantageous both to Britain & Ireland and to it's Colonies, I shall therefore further consider the benefit to Britain, in extending the Colony Trade, and make the American Colonies of greater benefit to Britain, by taking off several Burthens and Checks to Trade by some of the Clauses in the Act of Navigation.

That Act was framed at a time when the united Provinces were almost masters of all the Trade of Europe, and the Indies, when the British Trade was scarce out of it's infancy, and it's Colonies but few and weak, as to wealth and numbers, and the Dutch the chief carriers of goods to all the surrounding Countries, and of all their produce having scarce any produce or exports of their own growth, and therefore for the increase of the English Shipping, and curbing of the Dutch and Foreign Trade, it was very prudent to prohibit any foreign Ships from importing to Britain any goods but what was of their own growth, or manufacture, and for the increase of our Seamen to oblige the Merchants to man their Ships principally

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with Brittish Sailors, and also to confine all their Colonies to depend upon, & Trade only with their mother Country.

But as the Colonies are so greatly increased and the British Empire and commerce is so greatly extended, and all nations are endeavouring to improve their commerce, and as the general expence and price of Labour, and wages of Artificers, and Manufacturers must also rise with the necessaries of life, the Colony Trade & improvement of it, is now become of the greatest consequence to Britain, as well upon Account of the employment of our Artificers, and Manufacturers, as by the consumption of our Manufactures, and increase of our Seamen, & Ships to support our marine, and therefore the Colonies should be encouraged in every improvement & Branch of Commerce not incompatible with the Trade of Britain in preference to all Foreign Trade in order to their supplying Britain with all the premiums of our richest manufactures, to give Britain returns for their manufactures, & other produce of their Labour which can only prevent the Colonies from setting up manufactures for their own consumption, and therefore the restricting Clause of the Act of Navigation for confining the Colonies by several enumerated Commodities, from dealing with any Foreign Countries in Europe or with foreign Colonies without first entering their Ships in England, or receiving their produce only from England, must be a great discouragement to the Colonies, by rising the price, and by that means lessening the returns or remittances to Britain to purchase their Manufactures.

As for instance what detriment would it be to Britain to allow all kind of Naval Stores to be shipped directly from the Colonies to Ireland, by which means remittances might be made to Britain to the value of the Specie sent to Norway or the Baltick for Lumber and Naval Stores, or could it be any disadvantage if Linnens of all kinds could be sent in return to the Colonies cheaper than by sending them from England since it would prevent the Colonies from entering into that Manufacture, and would enable them to make other returns to Britain.

Would not the allowing Naval Stores as well as Lumber Ships, and other produce, to be sent to Spain, Portugal or the Mediteranean and to be allowed to return with wine, oil, fruit & salt, at the cheapest hand, and have a return in specie or to remit to Britain for their Manufactures would it not be of great benefit to Britain to prevent the Northern Kingdoms from supplying and vending their Naval Stores to the Southwd and would it not so far lower the price of Naval

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Stores and Lumber from the Baltick for which Britain & Ireland now remits specie to them.

Would it be any prejudice to Britain to allow Rice, Indigo, Sugar, Coffee or Cocoanuts to be carried from the Colonies to Ireland directly as well as rum, and by that means prevent Ireland from trading with, and importing them from foreigners, sugars not being prohibited from Portugal or France, upon paying foreign duties, would it not also be a benefit to Britain to allow the Colonies on the Continent to Trade with and export to the French, Dutch and Spanish Islands or main, all kinds of Lumber, Provisions, and Naval Stores, and to import in return Sugars, rum, coffee, cocoanuts and molasses upon paying foreign duties for them, and to re-export them to Britain, as it would lower the price of those Commodities from our Islands, for their home consumption, and also to take those Articles from the foreign Islands in exchange for their lumber, provisions and Naval Stores, upon paying foreign duty as Britain can no otherwise recover the sale of sugar etc in foreign Markets but by raising the price of French Sugars in their Islands, and lowering the price in our own Colonies where the Planters at present makes enormous fortunes at the Expence of Britain, by their losing the foreign sale, who would still be enabled to make considerable Fortunes.

Would not the allowing the Colonies on the Continent to Trade with the foreign, French & Neutral Islands, by supplying them with lumber provisions & Naval Stores, and to take in return their sugars, rum, and molesses, and other produce by raising the price of their produce, and carrying them directly to Britain, by which we should gain the freight, insurance and employment of our Ships & seamen upon paying the foreign duty be a means of preventing the French from sending great part of their sugars etc to Foreign markets & enabling Britain to sell at parr with them in foreign Markets, and enable the continental Colonies to procure returns for the great quantity of manufactures and goods of all kinds which they might import from Britain.

Might it not also be of service to lessen the foreign duty on sugar, rum, molesses, coffee, etc for the quantity imported into the Continental Colonies for their Home consumption which might raise an equal sum, by preventing smuggling and to draw back the greatest part upon the re-exportation to Britain or Ireland, upon Bonds being given to return a certificate of their being imported there.

Is not the sale of such vast Quantities of Manufactures, and of the other produce of Britain to the Northern Continental Colonies

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by which so many hands are employed in Britain of infinitely more benefit to Britain than the importation of an equal value from the West Indies spent in Luxeries in Britain and must be the means of encouraging a great many industrious hands in Britain & consequently lessening the poor Tax, and will not this Equitable treatment of the Colonies be a means of increasing and extending our Colonies, and Keeping them dependant and making them still more serviceable to their head which protects them & secures their religious liberties and properties, is not this the proper era to have this considerd and properly digested in the British Parliament in order to increase our commerce, support our marine, and increase the Revenue, in order to ease Britain of their Debts and Taxes, which most sensibly effects the industrious poor.

These thoughts and Observations I think it my Duty to lay before your Lordships, that I may throw in my might, if you think any of them worthy of notice to promote His Majesty's Service, and the prosperity of the British Empire.

I am with great Respect My Lords &c


1 See page 1040 post.